Drama and debate expected to rule 2015 political scene

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The next year is poised to bring more drama and debate for what U.S. leaders should look for in their political — sorry — for U.S. politics.

    Our political director, Domenico Montanaro, brings us a political viewers guide to 2015.

  • DOMENICO MONTANARO:

    2014 was a consequential year in American politics, from the Republican election sweep that will give the GOP control of the U.S. Senate, to the president's executive action on immigration, to the eruption of protests over the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of a man in New York.

    So, what might happen in 2015? Here are some things to watch.

    First, Republicans are looking to flex their muscles in Congress. So expect President Obama to dust off the veto pen. He's only used it twice. That's the least of any president in 130 years since James Garfield. But Garfield had a pretty good reason for not issuing any vetoes. He was shot just four months into office.

    So, what will be the hot issues? First, health care. Republicans like Mitch McConnell, the man who will control the Senate, have said things like this.

  • SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader:

    Look, the American people hate, detest and despise Obamacare. Virtually all of us would like to see it pulled out root and branch. We understand that the president obviously is not sympathetic with that point of view.

  • DOMENICO MONTANARO:

    McConnell knows the White House would block any attempt to overturn the law. What congressional Republicans might pass instead are significant changes, like ending a tax on medical devices, changing the definition of full-time work, so employers would have to cover fewer people, and eliminate an advisory board overseeing Medicare costs.

    But the most important building to watch on health care may be this one, the Supreme Court. The justices will decide by this summer whether people who sign up for Obamacare through a state exchange are allowed to get money from the federal government to lower the cost of their coverage. If the court rules they can't, the amount people pay would go up, and that would leave the law on life support.

    Next issue to watch, the Keystone pipeline.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it's not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people.

  • DOMENICO MONTANARO:

    The president has delayed his decision on whether to approve the pipeline. It would move oil from Canada to the Southern U.S., but environmental groups strongly oppose it.

    Before the president decides on Keystone, Congress may try to force his hand. Republicans want to pass legislation mandating the pipeline's approval.

    But 'tis the season of joy and merriment, even at the Capitol. Is there anything the two sides can do to work on together? One area where McConnell and a Republican Senate could actually help the president, trade.

    Remember this fall when President Obama went to Beijing for that Asian economic summit? He's been trying to pass a trade deal with Pacific Rim countries, but Democrats like outgoing Senate Leader Harry Reid have blocked it. They fear it would outsource jobs.

    And maybe it's all the eggnog talking, but some are even thinking about tax reform. But that's been dangled out there before. If those deep issues aren't what you political junkies were hoping for, have no fear, 2016 campaigning will soon be here.

    How soon? We will likely see candidates declare this spring. And by the summer, the presidential campaign will be in full swing.

    Domenico Montanaro, "PBS NewsHour."

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